Since May 2003, AccessWorld has published articles that have evaluated the accessibility and usability of cell phones and add-on software applications. In this article, we at AFB TECH continue this effort by evaluating Code Factory’s newer version of its screen magnifier, Mobile Magnifier 2.8, which we previously evaluated in November 2005. We also take our first look at ZOOMS 3.0, a screen magnifier from Nuance. Both products are options for cell phone users who have low vision. Code Factory also produces Mobile Speak, and Nuance produces TALKS, cell phone screen readers that were reviewed in the January 2007 issue of AccessWorld.
Both Mobile Magnifier and ZOOMS are good cell phone screen magnifiers for people with mild visual impairments. Mild is the key word to remember here. People with sufficient visual acuity to read the screen using 2x magnification or less may find Mobile Magnifier or ZOOMS helpful when using their cell phones, but those with lower levels of vision may not. As we stated previously, the higher the level of magnification in the magnified window, the more challenging cell phone screen magnifiers are to use efficiently.
If you require 3x or higher magnification, you may find that using the magnifier program in conjunction with speech output from the screen-reader program or using only a screen reader will better meet your needs. This would also be an idea to consider for someone who may be gradually losing vision and may require high magnification or may need to rely on speech output in the near future.
Because Mobile Magnifier and ZOOMS are similar, we do not recommend one product over the other. Mobile Magnifier offers more ways to customize the display, although most of the display modifications are minor. ZOOMS offers the Auto Scrolling Delay feature and the ability to select the number of text lines that appear on the screen at one time, both of which can be beneficial. So, it is really up to you to decide which features are the most important for your particular needs. The biggest consideration for many may be the price (see the Product Information section).
With all the helpful features of Mobile Magnifier and ZOOMS, there are still some features of cell phones that are not well suited to magnification. The camera feature is awkward to use, and the calendar and calculator features, for example, are particularly difficult to use because of issues with screen orientation. This is not a reflection on the magnifier programs necessarily; it is due to the way the screens were designed to be displayed. They were not designed by the cell phones’ manufacturers to be magnified, so the magnification displays some screen views in such a way that makes them less usable by people who use screen magnification.